Big man on campus

CLEMSON – Eight-time Pro Bowl safety and former Clemson standout Brian Dawkins was on hand at the Dabo Swinney Football Camp as an instructor for all three second-session days last month.

And quite frankly, his presence on the practice fields was hard to miss.

Still showing a chiseled physique that has enabled him to continue a high level of play in the NFL, Dawkins could be routinely heard teaching lessons both on and off the field.

"We're here to have work," Dawkins told a young cornerback at one point. "But we're also here to have fun. We work and have fun- that's what it's all about."

Later on, he spoke to another defensive back, as he was beat working in 1-on-1 drills against the wide receivers. He said, "That's okay. That's okay he caught that because if he has time to run four different routes on you, you need to go talk to your defensive line and ask them what's going on?"

It seems to safe to say, Dawkins made quite an impression on all the campers he came in contact with.

Originally from Jacksonville, Fla., Dawkins was a three-year starter at Clemson, recording 251 tackles and 11 interceptions—six of which came during his senior year, when he was named a Second Team All-American.

Prior to 2009, when he was named to the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame, Dawkins was also named to the Tigers' Centennial Team.

With the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos during his 15-year NFL career, Dawkins has 36 interceptions, over 500 tackles and 21 sacks and is widely considered to be first-ballot Hall of Famer.

CUTigers caught up with the NFL star shortly after the conclusion of Dabo Swinney's annual football camp, and here is part of that conversation:

How'd your relationship with the current Clemson staff start?
Dawkins: First of all, it's coach Charlie Harbison—Cheese. He coached when I left here from Clemson. Him coming back here was very influential, as was Patrick Sapp. He's now doing a lot of things for Clemson, also. Those are two inviting pieces of what I call family that are back in Clemson. That was a huge invitation for me to come back and share my time with them and with the kids.

When you look at the direction of the program, as an alum of the program and school, what direction do you see it going in?
Dawkins: It's a very positive direction. Very positive. One of the thing Dabo is doing, is putting building blocks to build something special. It's a very close-knit team. Great coach, personable coaches that care about their players. All of those things, to me, build closeness that you're willing to do anything for your teammate.


Dawkins, pictured here at Dabo Swinney's football camp last month, told CUTigers he wants to eventually get into coaching- high school coaching that is. (Roy Philpott)
Are you getting to the point in your career where you're starting to hear too many people asking you how long you're going to keep playing?
Dawkins: That started when I was 30. It comes with the territory with someone who wants to play a long time.

What's been the best part of being with a new team over the past year?
Dawkins: They're just quality guys. We have a bunch of quality guys there that care. Anytime you have that, it makes your transition from another team a lot easier.

What's the Broncos' outlook on this season?
Dawkins: I feel great about it. We have a new d-coordinator. I'm very, very excited with what he's implemented, defensively. It's another year in the system with the guys and with Josh (McDaniels), how bright he is as a coach.

From the look of it out here at camp, it seems you really enjoy coaching and teaching these kids. Is that something you want to do once your playing career is done—getting into coaching?
Dawkins: Yes. I want to get into coaching, high school coaching when it's all said and done.

Tim Tebow. Have you had a chance to talk to him very much?
Dawkins: He's a teammate. He's a young guy with a lot to learn. He's no different than any other young quarterback with talent. You still have to learn professional football to let your talent shine. He's very humble and hard-working. Those are good traits to have.

By the way - why high school coaching?
Dawkins: I love being able to reach young men while they're impressionable, before they head off into college and already have a lot of bad habits by that time. You can not only make the better ballplayers but better men. Before that, the outcome can be brighter for a lot of kids.

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